Teaching teachers: New York National Guardsman leads seminar in Afghanistan
October 17, 2012
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan - From a New York classroom to a meeting room in the middle of Afghanistan, Sgt. Andrew Brechko never stops teaching.
Brechko, a member of the New York National Guard's 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, used his six years of experience in the classroom to lead a seminar for Afghan teachers at Forward Operating Base Spin Boldak. The seminar has been offered multiple times, and each time the classroom is filled to capacity with teachers from across the district.
"Every single time we've had the class, it's been maxed out with the number of people that we asked for," said Brechko, a native of Binghamton, N.Y. "And the fact that they come in on their day off speaks volumes toward their motivation to get some teacher training."
The seminar focuses on teaching strategies and how to implement them in the classroom. Brechko said he wants to empower educators and make them feel as though they can freely participate in the training, so the seminar is full of personal recollections and opinion sharing from the Afghan teachers.
"During the seminars I never make reference to curriculum, nor do I try to place the U.S. education model on the [Afghan] one," Brechko added. "It's actually a good opportunity to establish a bond between Afghanistan and the United States. It kind of takes away the uniform and ... gives them a commonality between the two."
As a teacher, Brechko feels strongly about the role of education, especially for a country like Afghanistan.
"After the Soviet invasion you have 30 years of warfare so the generations that remember a prosperous Afghanistan have fallen by the wayside. The only way that you're going to build a nation and build the strength of a nation is through education, there's no other way to do that."
Brechko said the key to it all is to build a desire for education in Afghanistan's youth. That is why strategies to encourage children to attend school and tips to build their confidence in the classroom are important during the seminar.
"Student assessment, teacher collaboration, and the importance of establishing clear teaching objectives to focus instruction" are some examples of Brechko's instruction, and he added, "If you make people love education they'll be more apt to continue their education- they'll be more apt to take on more challenging tasks because they have the confidence that they can do it."
Brechko works closely with Haji Badrudeen, the District Education Representative of Spin Boldak, to bring teachers to the seminar.
"His open mind and desire to improve the education system of [Afghanistan] is what makes this teacher training so successful," Brechko said. "He brings his best teachers every time and he participates in the instruction along with them."
He called Badrudeen a "very progressive thinker" and they hope to create a seminar for female teachers in the future.
In addition to the usual issues instructors face in any classroom, teachers in Afghanistan also face a unique set of challenges such as the Taliban threat and improvised explosive devices on roads. Badrudeen said two teachers were recently killed by an IED while driving back from a conference in Kabul.
Despite these worries, the Afghan teachers seem passionate about their jobs and excited about the seminar.
"One of the Afghan teachers stood up and said the most important job, the most important person in a society is a teacher," Brechko recounts. "I asked him why and he said because every lawyer, every doctor, every politician, every military general, every single person has been taught, and that's the power of a teacher."